Weekly roundup: Advances for mobile health but not for privacy and security

This week brought some interesting information about the state of privacy and security in the U.S. healthcare industry.  Since 2009, the industry has experienced 495 breaches involving 21 million records at an estimated cost of $4 billion, according to the Health Information Trust Alliance's (HITRUST) analysis of healthcare data breaches since 2009.

Along with this news came word of yet another breach, this one impacting 1,800 home infusion patients. An unencrypted handheld Palm device was lost and contained names, addresses, diagnoses, medications and insurance identification numbers that included “some” Social Security numbers. No financial information was on the device.

Although there appears to be little improvement on the privacy and security front, mobile health (mHealth) welcomed a new roadmap from mHIMSS, the mobile initiative of the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The mHIMSS Roadmap is designed to provide direction related to mHealth in the form of an interactive tool that includes information on new care models, technology, return on investment and payment, policy, privacy and security, standards and interoperability. 

Also on the new technologies front is a webinar featuring Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and chief academic officer for Scripps Health, who discussed how the current digital revolution with new tools is transforming medicine in virtually every way.

The 2000s introduced mobile devices which have changed our lives, Topol said. That one component of the digital revolution happened in a short period of time. Social networking is another advance that has dramatically altered healthcare. Anyone in the world can find a patient just like them to share information with and learn from. Physicians are not in touch with this movement, however, said Topol. He cited a survey of about 4,000 physicians in which only 11 percent even knew that online health communities exist. There is a “remarkable chasm between traditional medical communities.”

Data are now stored, graphed, archived and relayed to a provider. Most of his patients are hypertensive, Topol said, and he can now get hundreds of blood pressure readings from their devices. “We are more data driven than anyone might have predicted. The average person looks at his or her cellphone 150 times per day. That is potentially a very substantive change,” as patients’ vitals can be collected and stored on cellphones.

Are you and your facility ready for this digital revolution? Please share your thoughts.

Beth Walsh

Clinical Innovation + Technology editor